Tag Archives: book review

Book Review 3: The Fred Factor (Part 1/2)

7 Apr

4 Lessons Anyone Can Learn from Fred’s Example in Customer Service

fred-factor

I was at an event recently and had a chance to visit with different people with varied backgrounds and professional pursuits. Someone asked the group, “are you a Fred?” and maybe more importantly, “do you have any Freds in your organization?”

That intrigued me enough to pick up a book written by Mark Sanborn titled The Fred Factor. What a simple, yet compelling book for anyone to read and think about to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

The book starts out with a story about how Sanborn’s mailman and his mail delivery created an extraordinary experience. According to the author:

“This postal carrier stopped by my house right after I moved in to introduce himself and welcome me to the neighborhood. When he learned I traveled almost 200 days a year, he suggested I give him a schedule and he would hold my mail, bundle it up and only deliver it on the days I was home. I suggested he just leave the mail in the box on the side of the house and I would pick it up when back in town. Fred, the mail carrier, suggested that was a bad idea because burglars watch for mail building up in the box. He suggested putting what he could in the box and the balance between the screen door and front door.

I started to wonder if this guy was for real and really worked for the U.S. Postal Service.

Two weeks later, after coming home I noticed my front door mat was on the side of my porch. Under it was a note from Fred. While I was gone, another mail carrier had delivered a package to the wrong address. He went and got it, left it on my porch and covered it with the doormat so it was safe with a hand written note so I knew what was going on.”

Over the next 10 years, the author received exceptional service from Fred the Postman. He could always tell when a substitute was on the job, as mail was jammed in the box as opposed to neatly bundled. These encounters inspired the author to figure out what the “Fred Factor” is and what it takes to become one.

So, how can we get more Freds in the world? That’s easy to answer: Be a Fred! Only if you make the ordinary extraordinary will others see the possibilities for themselves. One thing seems common to all human beings: a passion for significance.

So, what does it take to be a Fred? There are lots of nuggets and good points in this book but a great place to start is with the 4 main principles the book outlines: 

Principle #1: Everyone makes a difference.

Only employees can choose to do their job in an extraordinary way. Yes, the right management, structure, procedures, and culture of a company all matter, but in the end, only employees can CHOOSE to do their job in an extraordinary way. Nobody can prevent you from choosing to be exceptional. The question to ask yourself everyday is what kind of difference you made on that day. A good reminder is to know more and notice more.

What we haven’t been told nearly enough is that people give work dignity. There are no unimportant jobs, just people who feel unimportant in their jobs. B.C. Forbes, the founder of Forbes magazine, said, “There is more credit and satisfaction in being a first-rate truck driver than a tenth-rate executive.” Think about that for a minute!

The Fred Factor emphasizes that the more value you create for others, the more value will eventually flow towards you.

Principle #2: Everything is built on relationships.

Fred is proof that, in any job or business, relationship building is the most important objective, because the quality of the relationship is what differentiates the quality of the product or service. Most mail carriers can get the mail in the mailbox, but Fred got to know the person so he could deliver exceptional service custom tailored to them.

Principle #3: You must continually create value for others, and it doesn’t have to cost a penny.

Don’t have enough money? The necessary training? The right opportunities? In other words, do you ever complain that you lack resources?

Then consider Fred. What resources did he have at his disposal? A blue uniform and a mail bag. That’s it! He walked up and down the streets with that bag of mail and his heart and head full of imagination. By the end of the day, Fred had beaten a silent competitor that threatened his potential. That competitor is mediocrity—a willingness to do just enough and nothing more than necessary to get by.

Principle #4: You can reinvent yourself regularly.

The only difference between a rut and a grave, as the old saying goes, is the depth.

Become a sponge for ideas. Learn how to distinguish between activity and accomplishment. If you want to reinvent yourself, answer these questions:

  • What are the most important lessons you have learned?
  • What did you once deeply desire to accomplish that you never attempted?
  • Whom do you most admire?
  • Which of their skills and characteristics would you like to develop in your life?

Work on your IQ (implementation quotient). How many good ideas die for lack of action and follow through on your part? Knowing you could have made someone’s day and actually doing it are two different things.

You might want to practice the one-a-day plan. If you do one extraordinary thing a day, whether at home or work, your work will be a record book of the extraordinary.

These four lessons can apply to anyone in any industry, but it is especially true in the building products industry. Building is unique in that, despite all sorts of modern and technological advances, it is still almost entirely built around relationships. Likewise, it doesn’t matter how smart or creative we are with marketing if the people making, maintaining, and nurturing the relationships aren’t acting like Freds.

So, how about giving it a go? It’s time for those in the building products industry to learn from Fred—and help create more of them.

Stay tuned for part two of this book review, which will cover how to find and develop Freds as employees.

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Book Review 2/3: Year of Yes

1 Apr

What Building Products Marketers Can Learn from Saying “Yes”

Year of Yes

As building products marketers, the word “no” comes up a lot—either from us saying no or being told no. It’s easy to take those as referendums on our work or be discouraged from putting forth that next game-changing idea.

I recently had the opportunity to read a book that is different than my typical literary fare. Usually, I opt for building products-specific books, or other books that directly apply to business and marketing. This one was different in that it was written by Shonda Rhimes—one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, and the creator of three hit shows. Anyone who has ever watched Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, or How to Get Away with Murder likely knows about this extraordinary creative talent.

Year of Yes is about a challenge that was lobbed at her one Thanksgiving by her older sister. That sibling muttered six little words to her: “You never say yes to anything.” Saying no had become an easy choice to make, because it meant having nothing new to fear. 

Those six words set the course for the next year of her life, as she committed to one year of saying yes. Here is how that worked. Rhimes agreed to say yes to everything that scared her. In the book, she states she is an introvert, terrified of encounters like live interviews, speaking engagements, cocktail parties where she doesn’t know a soul, and so on. With this new pledge, she resolved that things were gonna’ change!

So she started saying yes, and this book is the story of that. Through this transformative year, Rhimes accomplished the following:

  • Gave commencement speech at Darthmouth and here are a few significant points from that speech to those graduates:
    • Lesson 1: Ditch the Dream. Be a doer, not a dreamer.
    • Lesson 2: Tomorrow is going to be the worst day ever for you.
    • Lesson 3: Anyone that tells you they are doing it perfectly is a liar.
  • Appeared live on Jimmy Kimmel
  • Lost 100 pounds by saying yes to health
  • Gave speeches across the country
  • Hosted industry-wide events
  • Gave up fake friends by saying yes to the truth

I am going to embrace this idea and see what saying yes will mean to me this year. I challenge the building materials industry to think about a simple concept like this.

What would saying “yes” do to our efforts? Would excuses fall by the wayside? Would we be more focused on trying new things and moving beyond fear or hesitation? Would we create new products and services that could change our industry? Would we market them in bold new ways that engage our customers instead of doing what we’ve always done? Would we challenge ourselves to do better work that pushes us outside of our comfort zone and delights customers? Might we embrace new technology and use it to build up our business and our customers’ businesses? Would we sell more? Grow more?

I’ll venture a guess and say that the answer to those questions is a resounding yes.

See? I’m doing it already.

 

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What “The Ultimate Question 2.0″ Means for Building Product Marketers

2 Jul

Image linked from jephmaystruck.com – click to buy this book on Amazon.com

What a Net Promoter Score is and how it could be useful for you

I had the opportunity to attend the 2012 International Business Marketing Association Conference in Chicago early this month. One keynote speaker was Fred Reichheld with Bain & Company and the author of “ The Ultimate Question 2.0.”

The book title refers to a question of ultimate importance: ‘On a zero-to-ten scale, how likely is it that you would recommend us (or this product/service/brand) to a family member, friend or colleague?’

As Reichheld explains, the phrasing of that question is ‘a shorthand wording of a more basic question, which is, “Have we treated you right, in a manner that is worthy of your loyalty?” But the question really wasn’t [and isn’t] the heart of things. After all, no company can expect to increase its growth or profitability merely by conducting surveys, however the question or questions might be phrased.

He provides a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective management system that has three central components:

  1. Categorizing customers into one of three categories (i.e. Promoters, Passives, and Detractors) through a simply survey
  2. Create an easy-to-understand score based on that categorization
  3. Frame that for everyone in the organization so people can be accountable for change because measurement creates accountability.

With regard to the scores themselves, Promoters are those who provide a rating of 9 or 10, Passives 7 or 8, and Detractors 6 or less. An example, let’s say 100 customers respond: 35 Promoters, 45 Passives, and 20 Detractors. The net score is determined by subtracting the total number of Detractors (i.e. 20) from the total number of Promoters (i.e. 35) and that is 15. That is a baseline against which subsequent efforts to increase Promoters and decrease Detractors are measured. Reichheld calls it the Net Promoter Score (NPS).

In my opinion, with all due respect to the importance of the NPS metrics, the implications of the measurements are of far greater importance. Think of the measurements as a mirror, one that reflects multiple realities. Only by understanding those realities – and how to respond to each effectively – can appropriate change initiatives be initiated to achieve and then sustain a never-ending process of improvement. Flexible it may be, but without the following elements, NPS just won’t work. They are:

  1. Companies must systematically categorize Promoters and Detractors in a continuous, timely, and accurate manner. I think it is also important to note when Promoters become Passives and when Detractors become Passives. Most important might be to UNDERSTAND WHY.
  2. Companies must create closed-loop learning and improvement processes and build them into their daily operations. In other words, NPS is not, and must never be viewed as, a customer relations improvement initiative or even a program. It must become and then remain an “organic” system.
  3. CEOs and other leaders must treat creating more Promoters and fewer Detractors as mission critical. I’d say “mission imperative”. As Peter Drucker once observed, ‘Without customers, there is no business.’

The NPS approach is a business philosophy, a system of operational practices, and a leadership commitment, not just another way to measure customer satisfaction: that is the critical difference. The first half of the book explains the system; the second half shares stories of how different companies have embraced the idea. Check it out, it is definitely worth the read.

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